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How to help when you’ve found out that the person you’re dating has a panic disorder

Dating someone with anxiety issues or an anxiety disorder can be stressful and can negatively impact your relationship if not handled correctly.

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear and can be debilitating to those who suffer from it. If you’re unsure of what you can do to help or how you need to react here are a few suggestions.

Firstly, let go of assumptions

When initially hearing that the person you are dating has panic disorder, certain assumptions may come to mind. You may think that they must be overly nervous and fearful, or perhaps you think they just worry too much. Before making too many judgments about your dating partner's condition, it can be helpful to first learn more about panic disorder. Unfortunately, many misconceptions and myths about panic disorder may have influenced your view of this condition. Learning more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for panic disorder can help you have a better idea of what to expect from your partner and allow you to gain a clearer perspective of what your partner is experiencing.

Support, don’t suffocate

The stigma of panic disorder may prevent your partner from opening up further about the condition. Due to fears of rejection and worrying that others cannot relate, people with panic disorder are often susceptible to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It may take some time to build trust before the person you are dating feels comfortable providing detail about what it is like to be living with an anxiety disorder. It can help to communicate to your partner that you are available to listen, but that you will not push for a discussion until your partner feels ready.

Do not bring up the panic disorder in front of other people. Many panic sufferers chose to only tell trusted friends and family about their condition.

Meet Panic With Patience

It can be difficult to understand what your partner is dealing with if you have never experienced panic attacks or other anxiety-related symptoms. A person with panic disorder often encounters persistent and unanticipated panic attacks. These attacks are typically felt through distressful thoughts, upsetting emotions, and uncomfortable physical sensations. When dating a person with panic disorder, it is ideal to remain patient when your partner is faced with panic attacks and anxiety. Let your partner know that you are there for them and that you have their safety and welfare in mind. Be careful not to push your loved one into feared situations or dismiss their symptoms, as this can often lead to an increased sense of fear and anxiety.

Know what not to say

“Just calm down”

If told to calm down, a person having a panic attack may feel as though you are suggesting that they have complete control over their symptoms. If a person could simply calm down and stop having a panic attack, they would. You may think you are helping to redirect the person by telling him to calm down. In reality, it can just cause them to be more aware and self-conscious of their symptoms.

“You’re embarrassing yourself”

This is simply mean and insensitive. Many people already feel embarrassed about having to manage a panic attack in public, so there is no need to bring this to the person’s awareness.

“You’re overreacting”

These few words can be tremendously discouraging for a person facing a panic attack. It can be hard enough to have to deal with uncomfortable symptoms, but even more challenging when others are minimizing their experience.

Become part of the solution

Panic disorder can be a difficult anxiety disorder to deal with but can be managed through treatment. If your partner is interested, you may be able to get involved in their treatment process. You may be able to help your partner develop coping techniques, be a part of the medication management, or even attend occasional therapy sessions.

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